One of my strategies for managing chronic depression is getting out of the house every day. When I’m having an episode, most days I open my eyes, sigh with frustration and then begin the battle of my inner dialogue…
“Oh, another day. Time to get out o…”
“… close your eyes and stay in bed – just ten more minutes. Feel how tired you are!”
10 minutes later
“Okay, now I really have to get out of be…”
“…staying in bed won’t hurt anyone. You’ve had a busy few days. Besides, nothing bad can happen if you stay here in your comfortable, warm bed.”
“But, but I don’t want to waste the day…”
… and it continues. I am so glad that after years of unhealthily late sleep-in’s and ridiculously late nights, I’ve learnt;
a) that getting out of bed, despite my feelings is beneficial to my mental health, and
b) I can put strategies in place to make getting out of bed and out of the house every day possible.
So, here are a few strategies:
1. I acknowledge I am blessed to have a part-time job that I love, so three days a week I am obliged to get out of the house, and it has made a massive difference to my mental health. Don’t have a job or can’t be employed? Try volunteering; it’s commitment without the pressure. Before I was well enough to have paid employment, I volunteered at a local kids club, at church and for a mutual-help support group.
2. Organise to have a tea/coffee at a cute cafe least once a week with a ‘no pressure’ friend.
3. Spread out doctors, specialist and support appointments so they are on different days.
4. Access your local community centre or mental health support service. There are plenty of organisations funded by the government who organise activities (e.g. choirs, art lessons, computer tutorials, community gardens and tours) and mutual support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.
5. Don’t do a massive grocery shop, rather, get what I need for a day or two. This forces you to go out and get a few groceries 3-4 days a week. This has the added benefit of cooking with/eating fresh fruit, veggies and meat.
6. Make bookings! I love going to the theatre and the cinema. Booking tickets in advance can force you out of the house, lest you waste good money on something fun.
7. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing when my mental health is good and give a copy to those in your support network. It can often be obsolete to say, ‘do something you enjoy’ to a depressed person as a symptom of depression is that you can’t think of something you could enjoy. This is where my list comes in handy, it reminds me (and others) of the activities that can get me out of the house/bed and will improve my mood – even if it’s a smidgen, it’s worth it.
8. Give yourself credit where credit is due and don’t be hard on yourself when you do stay in bed or the house all day. Learning to manage mental illness is a long learning process. Write-off a bad day and have an early night because tomorrow is a new day.
I’ll be the first to admit that balancing mental health strategies with physical illnesses can make this harder; for example, I’ve had non-stop dizziness for five days and can’t drive, leave the house or operate machinery (in this case some appliances/hot stovetop).
For these sick or flare-up days, my goal is to get out of bed, brush my teeth and eat my meals or watch Netflix while sitting in the sun. If I can add a shower, play with some pastels, paint, read, welcome a visitor, or walk to the mailbox, it’s a productive day.
Then when I get better, or my flare up ends, I’ll start leaving the house again.
What helps you get out of the house when you body is telling you otherwise?